Connecting Actors With the Introduction of Mobile Technology in Health Care Practice Placements (4D Project): Protocol for a Mixed Methods Study

Carlos Martínez-Gaitero*, Sebastian Maximilian Dennerlein, Beata Dobrowolska, Angela Fessl, Daniel Moreno-Martínez, Stephanie Herbstreit, Gilbert Peffer, Esther Cabrera, Carles Garcia, Agnieszka Chrzan-Rodak, Raymond Elferink, Cristina Casanovas-Cuéllar, Ariadna Huertas-Zurriaga, Cynthia Szalai, Daniela Mäker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: The learning process in clinical placements for health care students is a multifaceted endeavor that engages numerous actors and stakeholders, including students, clinical tutors, link teachers, and academic assessors. Successfully navigating this complex process requires the implementation of tasks and mentorships that are synchronized with educational and clinical processes, seamlessly embedded within their respective contexts. Given the escalating number of students and the rising demand for health care services from the general population, it becomes imperative to develop additional tools that support the learning process. These tools aim to simplify day-to-day clinical practice, allowing a concentrated focus on value-based activities. This paper introduces a project funded by the European Commission that involves 5 European countries. The project’s objective is to comprehensively outline the entire process of development and ultimately implement mobile technology in practice placements. The project tackles the existing gap by constructing tailored mobile apps designed for students, teachers, tutors, and supervisors within each participating organization. This approach leverages practice-based learning, mobile technology, and technology adoption to enhance the overall educational experience. Objective: This study aims to introduce mobile technology in clinical practice placements with the goal of facilitating and enhancing practice-based learning. The objective is to improve the overall effectiveness of the process for all stakeholders involved. Methods: The “4D in the Digitalization of Learning in Practice Placement” (4D Project) will use a mixed methods research design, encompassing 3 distinct study phases: phase 1 (preliminary research), which incorporates focus groups and a scoping review, to define the problem, identify necessities, and analyze contextual factors; phase 2 (collaborative app development), which involves researchers and prospective users working together to cocreate and co-design tailored apps; and phase 3, which involves feasibility testing of these mobile apps within practice settings. Results: The study’s potential impact will primarily focus on improving communication and interaction processes, fostering connections among stakeholders in practice placements, and enhancing the assessment of training needs. The literature review and focus groups will play a crucial role in identifying barriers, facilitators, and factors supporting the integration of mobile technology in clinical education. The cocreation process of mobile learning apps will reveal the core values and needs of various stakeholders, including students, teachers, and health care professionals. This process also involves adapting and using mobile apps to meet the specific requirements of practice placements. A pilot study aimed at validating the app will test and assess mobile technology in practice placements. The study will determine results related to usability and design, learning outcomes, student engagement, communication among stakeholders, user behavior, potential issues, and compliance with regulations. Conclusions: Health care education, encompassing disciplines such as medicine, nursing, midwifery, and others, confronts evolving challenges in clinical training. Essential to addressing these challenges is bridging the gap between health care institutions and academic settings. The introduction of a new digital tool holds promise for empowering health students and mentors in effectively navigating the intricacies of the learning process.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere53284
Number of pages12
JournalJMIR research protocols
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • co-design
  • cocreation
  • health professionals
  • health students
  • higher education
  • mobile learning
  • practice placement
  • practice-based learning
  • technology enhanced learning


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